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Hiking The Escalante Wilderness In Utah: The Deer Creek Trail

Hiking the Escalante Wilderness in Utah: The Deer Creek Trail

Hiking the Escalante Wilderness in Utah is a treat – especially the Deer Creek Trail. On our recent visit to southwestern Utah we decided to do the Deer Creek hike after hearing that the unsigned trail was supposed to be easy to follow. The trailhead was only about seven miles from where we were staying in Boulder – just off the Burr Trail – an exceptionally scenic road that is well worth investigating at the end of the hike.

The Deer Creek trail is obvious for most of the route. And it’s easy to get your bearings if you veer off since trees line the creek – and they’re the only big ones for miles around.

"Welcome to Grand Staircase- Escalante sign"

"The Deer Creek trailhead is just around the corner"

The Deer Creek trailhead is just around the corner

The trailhead was obvious because of a campground – appropriately named the Deer Creek Campground. We started just across from it.

Heading off we had no real idea of what we were getting into and how long the trail might be. In theory we knew you could hike all the way to the Escalante River – but this is canyon country and we didn’t know if we’d need ropes to accomplish that. And we hadn’t had our day of canyoneering yet so I was still circumspect about getting in over our heads.

"The start of the trail takes you through grasses"

The start of the trail takes you through grasses

"Fantastic show of fall colours early on the trail"

Fantastic show of fall colours early on the trail

"Fantastic fall colours"

As it turned out the trail really was easy to follow. In fact we were tempted to go and hike up some of the nearby hills on the slickrock that is so prevalent in the area. But we didn’t – more because of the heat – about 85 F in mid-October and we hadn’t brought enough water.

"Looking down the canyon"

Looking down into the canyon

"The canyon walls got suddenly very big"

The canyon walls get really big

"Dry wash with big boulders"

Crossing a dry wash

"Small side stream"

Didn’t expect to find this small side stream

As we continued along the trail the canyon walls grew bigger and bigger. Not only that but our world started to narrow. We got to the point where we had no choice but to turn around or wade through the water.

So wade we did – in water so cold our feet hurt within seconds of being in it.

"Wading Deer Creek"

Wading the numbing waters of Deer Creek

We continued for about 15 more minutes from where we had slipped on the Tevas. John was a little disappointed that I wasn’t feeling more adventurous and in hindsight perhaps we should have explored further. I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. And the debris left from an obviously recent flash flood had my imagination working overtime.

"Navigating a tight part of the trail"

Navigating the trail between a rock and a hard place

We retraced our steps and found a lovely lunch spot in the shade with canyon views that were nothing short of spectacular.

"Tree by our lunch site"

Glorious lunch spot

And then we did some nearby exploring of the rock below and found a petrogylph.

"Checking out this rock for petroglyphs"

Checking out this rock for petroglyphs – and lo and behold


Found this petroglyph

"Stopping for a breather in the shade"

Stopping for a breather in the shade

"Great textures in the plants at the start & end of the trail"

Great textures in the plants at the start & end of the trail

"Sewer pipes that look like binoculars"

Looking for cool water at the end of the hike and found this

All told the hike took us about four hours including a long lunch stop and several breaks in the shade just to admire the scenery. We saw a total of three people – all within the first half mile of the car. The hike certainly gave you the sense of being out there and if we’d had decent maps and more canyoneering skills I think we could have explored further.

Another hike we had thought we’d do but decided against it because of the afternoon heat was The Gulch – just four miles further up the Burr Trail. It takes you up Long Canyon and can be hiked in either direction. Instead we enjoyed a drive of the Burr Trail from the air conditioned comfort of our car. But we have a reason now to return.

Tips for hiking the Escalante Wilderness in Utah – including the Deer Creek Trail

  • Carry lots of water.
  • Bring a wide brimmed hat.
  • Always carry the 10 hiking essentials.
  • Leave a note – with someone or at the very least in your car on where you plan to hike.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Canyons are prone to flash floods.

Other posts related to this trip in southwest Utah you might find helpful




Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. Another beautiful post, Leigh. We head south tomorrow to Arizona and because we’ve decided to drive instead of fly we have plenty of room for our hiking boots. . .the question will be: did they ever see the light of day or did they rest comfortably in the car’s trunk for several weeks? You’ve inspired me to use them!

    1. @Jackie You’ll end up finding some marvelous little spot that has just the right length of hike. You’ll be able to explore a part of the world not accessible to those who don’t get out of the car – and voila – you’ll be hooked.

  2. You and I have very different ideas of what a “trail” is. In my books, once you’re wading down the middle of a river, you’ve left the trail. As usual though, you’ve found some beautiful back country. Hope your feet have thawed back out by now.

  3. With all the natural beauty in the world, it’s hard to think of any place with more spectacular scenery than Utah. What a great trail you found. The part of the trail through a “rock and a hard place” looks pretty exciting.

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